Monday, October 26, 2015

Fall foliage before the sun sets too soon

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 60 degrees, wind 080 degrees at 10 knots

The weather was perfect, if slightly windy, for our annual fall foliage flight this evening. We always try our best to take to the sky for one final evening adventure in the Cub before Daylight Savings Time comes to an end and I'm relegated to mostly weekend-only flying. Gina met me down at the airport after work, Tommy propped the old Continental to life, and we were taxiing across the grass shortly after 5:30.

With a half-tank of gas and about 60 minutes before sunset, we quickly set off to enjoy the scenic views. I first flew east towards the lake, then down the valley, passing over the gliderport. I spotted a combine harvesting a field but it had stopped by the time I circled around for a photo.

Next I flew north, passing along the south and west edges of downtown Waynesville. I alternated between opening and closing the door, balancing warmth against the optimal photo-taking configuration. We spotted some driveways lined with vivid red trees and Gina snapped a photo of one of them; she (wo)manned the camera for most of the flight. The sun was getting lower, enhancing the shadows and washing everything in that beautiful yellow that only twilight brings.

Unfortunately we didn't have enough fuel or time to fly all the way to downtown Dayton. I'd hoped to do just that since we spotted some awesome colors there driving home from Michigan yesterday evening. However, I did spot some very vibrant pockets near Kettering so we crossed I-675 and circled around for a few more photos in the increasingly golden evening light.

Upon our return to Stewart the pattern was ours alone. I pulled the carb heat on downwind, brought the throttle to idle, and executed a pseudo-power-off 180 landing, touching down surprisingly softly in the moderate wind blowing almost directly down the runway. We taxied over to the hangar, pushd the J-3 inside, and shut the doors. Walking to my car, I spotted a large moon rising over the horizon and couldn't resist the urge to snap just one more photo.

With all my travel this month (20/31 nights away from home!) I'm very happy I was still able to fit in the annual foliage flight with the wife. We didn't just keep the tradition alive; we were treated to peak colors on an exceptionally beautiful evening. Fall has definitely arrived.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 0.8 hours
Total Time: 345.8 hours

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Austin's first small airplane flight

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Clear, 57 degrees, wind 080 degrees at 10 knots

Gina and one of her former coworkers, Tammy, used to chat about flying and the fact that I flew. At some point it came up that her son, Austin, is rather into airplanes. Fast-forward a few years and even though Gina no longer work in that school district, they have been chatting about getting him up in the air. He just turned 18 and is considering going to college to become a pilot.

As I've said before and I'll say again, there are few things more enjoyable as a pilot than introducing others to the joy of general aviation and small airplanes. So it goes without saying that I was happy to take Austin up in the Cub this morning. Apparently his family kept it a complete secret from him until they were on their way to Stewart - well done! He seemed pretty excited about it when I met everyone at the field around 9am.

We walked to the hangar and I pulled the Cub out on to the still-dew-covered grass, explaining a bunch of things and answering questions along the way. There were a couple drops of water in the fuel, so I took the opportunity to cover the reasoning for checking the fuel. I pointed out the (very few) instruments on the panel and they took some photos while I completed the preflight. Everything and everyone ready, I told Austin how to climb in the front and I hopped in the back seat. Another pilot who was about to fly the Champ kindly gave us a prop and the cool engine coughed to life on the third blade.

Describing something before climbing into the pilot's seat

I taxied to the west end of the field, ran through the complete pre-takeoff CIGAR checklist, and explained exactly what all I was doing back there. Austin gave me the thumbs-up when I asked if he was ready, so I rolled onto Runway 8; there was a rather healthy wind from the east. Throttle forward and we were rolling, then airborne, within a few hundred feet. I rocked the wings at everyone below as we climbed away.

Visibility was incredible this morning. At less than 1,000 feet AGL you could clearly spot all the buildings of downtown Cincinnati close to 40 miles south. He couldn't believe how far we could see. I flew over Caesar Creek Lake and pointed out both Warren County and Wright Brothers airports as we cruised between them.

I gave Austin a very brief demonstration on adverse yaw, banking right with the stick without touching the pedals; the nose swung wide left. Cubs teach the point quite well! Then we flew west towards Germantown, where he lives. As we circled over the small town, he spotted his house and I circled overhead before turning back towards Stewart.

Since he's looking to become a pilot, I offered him the controls. He did a great job making a few gentle turns and commented how easy it was to fly. People always seem surprised by that fact. It's true, we're (usually) not wrestling the controls to stay aloft! Then I asked if he was interested in having me demonstrate a couple other Private Pilot maneuvers. He was, so I showed him a steep turn, power-off stall, and a full forward slip.

We were just northwest of Waynesville so I entered the pattern on a 45 for a left downwind back to Runway 8. The wind was still a little gusty but almost right down the runway as I touched down on the right main just before the other two wheels returned to the turf. He said he didn't think the landing would be so gentle. Needless to say, I don't think most pilots could ask for more than that.

As we were saying goodbye, I offered to take Austin up again in the future. I suggested maybe trying out a Cessna so he can see what radio work and flying to other airports are all about. Hopefully he takes me up on the offer at some point!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.0 hours
Total Time: 345.0 hours